My uncle died today. My mother just called to tell me. She'd found out from the nursing home, not from his wife. I haven't shed any tears, and I'm not sure I will. I don't know if my uncle's death had any dignity, but his life sure didn't anymore.
He was diagnosed with cancer of the prostate 15 years ago, around the same time as my stepdad. My stepdad had the surgery, which left him incontinent. My uncle chose the hormone therapy, but ended up incontinent anyway. The cancer never left him completely, and slowly but steadily took over his body. In the end, he had no control over his bodily functions and could barely walk. Then he lost the power of speech. He'd been in a hospice, but the insurance industry being what it is in America, it paid for him to stay for only one week. Then he would have had to pay something like $300 a day. He went home but his wife couldn't care for him. So he went to a nursing home, where they left him lying in his shit for hours. He was in a room by himself with no one to talk to. His wife wouldn't visit him there. My mother thinks this is scandalous. I think she must have felt so guilty about having to put him there that she couldn't bear to see him there.
I didn't have much of a relationship with my uncle when I was younger. It really only blossomed when I moved to the UK and got a computer. He would send me emails. Loads of emails. Jokes, pictures, pro-Bush crap. But he thought of me. And I appreciated that. It's upsetting to think this is how he ended up. I think, and my mother does too, that his death was a blessing. He didn't want to live anymore.
This brings my mother's life and eventual demise into sharper focus. She has started to go downhill, which at 82 is expected. We all live so far away from her. The conversations with my sister always include what we would do with our mother should her husband go first. My sister wants to bring her to Florida to live with her. My aunt wants my mother to live with her. My mother thinks she might go to Florida or might go to a nursing home or might live with her sister. That's if her husband goes first. If she goes first, we know where she's going, but it would create a nightmare in terms of her estate.
It truly is hell when your parents get old. I didn't expect it to be so bad. At least my mother still has her marbles and doesn't have any really bad ailments. The mother of one of my friends has early-stage Alzheimer's. She forgets to eat, forgets where she is, forgets who people are. It's scary to think that's where we'll be one day.